Recovery Road- Work is a Workout

This week has been very busy at work and home.  As mentioned in previous posts, the kids are back to school.   Normally, I’d be back to school myself at this time, fixing up my classroom and organizing for the start of another great year.  August is my busiest month.  Since my job this fall is to stay home and recover from surgeries, my role at my real job has dramatically changed.  I spent the day today completing a technology training that involved a scavenger hunt and helping the teacher who would have been my kindergarten team member get her classroom ready.  She and her assistant are both new to the kindergarten level, so helping her get settled and establish her brand new classroom has been a top priority. I did bail on her for the year, after all, so I take the blame for leaving her to fend for herself, so to speak.

WOrk on healing

Green TeaAs a result of all of this activity, I came home absolutely exhausted.  In fact, I took a nap.  People, I don’t nap, or at least, I didn’t before my LAVH.  I’d only nap if I was sick. Well, I guess that confirms that my body is still healing if I’m still wanting to nap.  So, here I am, post-nap and only wanting to sleep more!  Pitiful.  The kids are home, however, so sleeping is truly impossible.  Instead I’m enjoying a cup of tea on this rainy day.  I was too lazy to make coffee.

What do you do when you’re tired?

My Current Read
My Current Read

What do you like to do when you’re feeling lazy?  My go-to activity is reading.  I love a good book. Today, I’m recommending a book that’s got me hooked: Ms. Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.  The only problem with this book is that I can’t put it down, which can, at times, keep me up later than desired even when I’m tired!  Don’t spoil the book by commenting because I’m not done with it yet!  I want the book to just keep going.  Ever feel that?  I want to plow through but I can’t bear the thought of it ending.

I plan to post frequently with book recommendations.  My reality is resting is the road to recovery.  Healing is a lot of work.

 

Hysterectomy Recovery: It’s a Long Road

If you’ve been following along with my journey, you will know that my hysterectomy recovery has much improved this week. I had energy, I wanted to go out and take my kids for fun activities the last week of their summer vacation, and I had my post-op and got scolded for lifting too much.  This weekend is proving to be a different story.

“Recovery”and “frustration” are siamese twins

shopping cart
via FolsomNatural on Flickr

I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “one step forward, two steps back.”  Yeah, well, that saying seems to be my mantra for today.  Now, granted that I may feel tired because I stayed up too late reading (thanks to a friend of mine loaning me some books…yeah, that would be you, Allison), but I’m guessing it’s because my body is feeling rebellious.  I went to the grocery store (again, yes) and told the bagger to make sure he only lightly filled the bags (which he did), put them in the car, and drove them home.  I didn’t even unload them (though I did help put individual items away).  That outing zapped all of my energy.

I’ve Got, that Healing feeling…

brick wall
via Joseph Francis on Flickr

Where I’ve felt like I was making great progress this week, I can tell you my belly has been talking to me today and telling me a quite different story.  Odd twinges here and there say, “dumb, dumb, go sit down!”  I should know by now that things are not the same down there and healing takes time.  Unfortunately, my brain also seems to be storing that thought in short-term memory.  Doris, at “Hysterectomy Toolbox,” emphasizes this point quite well:

Your increasing stamina will cause you to do more than you should, thus leading to increased fatigue and a feeling that you are losing ground. This is a major turning point in internal healing, but to you it will feel like hitting a wall: more fatigue just when you are bored; more abdominal discomfort just when you thought you were really getting on top of things.

Yep.  That sounds about right.  So, I’m resting…typing this.  Blog therapy is the best.  If you feel like you’re hitting a wall metaphorically and, in frustration, want to hit a wall literally, then you know exactly what’s going on in my head.

Now, I think, it’s time to go lie down!  Netflix, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

Hysterectomy Recovery: Not What You Think

hysterectomy recovery wearing pants

I’m wearing pants, people.  Well, when I feel like it, I’m wearing pants.  I compare this feeling to what it’s like getting to put on real clothes after a pregnancy.  This hysterectomy recovery, however, is not what you might think.  If you see me on the street, I look fine.  I’m moving pretty well.  My energy is returning, and I have a smile on my face because I’m genuine doing quite well.

A Long Recovery

Hysterectomy recovery solutions
Recovery Solutions

Now that I’m feeling better I struggle to remember that while I do have the energy to lead life “as normal,” the reality is that I should not resume many of the activities I am perform on a daily basis even though I feel better.  I had my two-week post-op this week and my P.A. chastised me for lifting a full gallon of milk.  A gallon of milk?  Seriously?  By my definition that’s not heavy.  The vacuum, yes.  Multiple bags of groceries, yes.  Closing the hatch on my SUV (thank goodness for that manual close button!), yes, but a gallon of milk?  Really?  So, I’m having to re-think how I define “heavy.”

On that note, do you know how much a full gallon of milk weighs?  The answer is approximately 8.75lbs.  There are many items in your house that weigh more than 8.75lbs. Don’t even think of lifting the vacuum or laundry basket (as mentioned in my previous post, Friends Are the Best).  The funny part is, it’s hard to tell what’s too heavy unless you weigh it, and by then it’s too late!  If in doubt, don’t do it.

Why is Recovery So Hard?

For active people, like me, recovery has its own challenges.  I like to be busy.  My husband works long hours, and in spite of what I preach, I have a really hard time asking for help, especially when it involves cleaning! My friends have young children.  We can afford a cleaning person.  I’m not going to ask a mom who is already struggling to keep her own head above water to come vacuum at my house simply because we choose not to hire a cleaning lady.  So, I’m forcing myself to be patient and turn a blind eye to what drives me crazy.  My husband can only do so much.  Though, on second thought, there’s no reason my almost ten-year-old daughter couldn’t vacuum…Hmm…New chore, I think, coming up!!!

No, really, it’s hard to remember that although you may feel better and look better, you aren’t healed inside.  Here is what my incisions look like:

IMG_6374
LAVH Incision Healing Up

Can you see it?  That’s my pointer finger next to the incision on my hip.  Each incision I have (and there are four) look like this one.  It’s smaller than most mosquito bites.  That being said, my P.A. reminded me that I’m not all better below the surface.  They had to cut through muscle and move some internal organs around to do this procedure.  They had to (sorry, if this is TMI), sew a vaginal cuff to close everything up where I once had a cervix.  The cuff has not yet healed completely.  I asked if I was recovered enough to go to a driving range for a friend’s birthday.  I’ll give you one guess what their answer was.  If I want a hernia, that’s the way to do it.

So, if you see me out and about, know I’m still not recovered.  In fact, I’m on these restrictions for four more weeks.  And do you all know what happens in that fourth week?  I have my mastectomy.  So, I’m in recovery mode for a LONG time.

Hysterectomy: Two Weeks Post-Op

I’m officially two weeks out from my hysterectomy/oophorectomy.  I am regaining my energy by the day.  I’m still banned from swimming, soaking in a tub, my kickboxing classes (waaahhh!) and  lifting anything heavy.  I feel much, much, better than I did at this time last week when I was napping pretty much every afternoon.

 Swelly Belly is Real!

My lack of energy and general discomfort last week was caused by Swelly Belly extraordinaire.  Before you think I’ve gone and lost it completely, I assure you that the phenomena known as “Swelly Belly” is real!!!  The wonderful hysterectomy support site entitled HysterSisters, even has a whole article dedicated to this lovely post-operative symptom.  You can read their article via the link at the bottom of this page.

For your viewing enjoyment, I present to you, the magically growing belly!

Swelly Belly by stages
Morning, midday, and evening from left to right

If I spent too much time on my feet, this is what happened.  My abdominal muscles experienced trauma and my back muscles have had to jump to the rescue.  If you plan to have this surgery, or any other abdominal surgery, I suggest taking some time to strengthen your legs and low back prior to the procedure.  My low back is not strong and I’ve been paying for it.  I ended each day feeling like a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy.

Buy Abdominal Support

hysterectomy abdominal supportI am so grateful to be feeling much better this week.  Part of the reason I’ve had such a transformation is because I had one family member and a friend recommend getting an abdominal support band (check out   one similar to what I’m wearing on Amazon). A friend loaned me her band and I’ve been wearing it religiously while up and about; I’ve found it to be a lifesaver.  The swelling is minimal now. I’ve always had a belly pooch, so I know the swelling has exacerbated that tummy, and this belly band keeps everything tucked in and helps my back in the process.  The belly band helped me return to the land of the living, which makes this extrovert a very happy camper.

I did enjoy the time I had to sit and be quiet last week.  If you are a parent, you know what I mean.  Alone time is precious!  I spent a good deal of time lying on my bed binge watching HBO series and and reading.  But, no matter how much I’ve enjoyed my quiet time, I’m looking forward to my activity level increasing every day!

Further reading on Hysterectomy Post-operative care:

 

Hysterectomy: Little Helpers

I should have done this a long time ago.  Who knew my daughter was strong enough to carry a full laundry basket on her own?  Her brother insisted on “helping.”  I’m thinking of buying two small laundry baskets for their clean clothes and letting them do the sorting and folding from now on.  I feel like the blinders have been lifted.  Since my hysterectomy post-op instructions include lifting restrictions, I need the kids to help!

hysterectomy helpers
My Little Helpers
hysterectomy helpers
Carry that Laundry!

If you are reading this and have kids, take a harder look at them.  They can do a lot more than what you think they can do.  Children did a lot more work in the past than they do now in the U.S.  I think it’s high time my kids learned more about the value of hard work and helping out in the home.  After all, how else will they learn?

We utilize a chore chart during  the summer months and on weekends during the school year.  The kids are already expected to take care of their own dirty dishes, unload the dishwasher and put the dishes away, and keep their bathroom counters and rooms clean.  They also sort their dirty laundry into the color-coded dirty piles on laundry day and put away their own clothes once I have folded them.   Since I am a teacher, I also work on skills I’ll know they need for the upcoming school year during summer months.

School starts next week, so I’m thinking about modifying their chores.  Having this hysterectomy has taught me that they are growing up and can be contributing more to this family; I will make their chores reflect this.  When my mastectomy comes along next month, I want my helpers trained and at the ready!

If you would like to read more about age-appropriate chores, check out my friend’s blog over at Simply Kierste.  She has a great list of ways her children help out at home!

I’m Not Brave, I’m Scared

I have been told by several people that I am brave to undertake this process, but I’m not brave, I’m scared.  I’m scared that if I do nothing, I’ll develop cancer.  I’m scared that I will not be there for my family.  And, I’m scared that I will end up like my mother, who died too young at the age of fifty-two.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Being Scared

The word “cancer” should cause you to panic.  Fear shows that you appreciate what you have and value what lies ahead. Find strength in being afraid.

Once you acknowledge that you are afraid, you can own your fear and, in essence, transform it.

Take your fear and use it; don’t let it use you.

I Am Not Brave

I am the Proactice Previvor because I am fearful not being proactive would consume me. The fear of the unknown would swallow me and leave just a shell unworthy of the life I have been given.

I will not waste this life, not one minute, serving the fear inside of me.  I will make it mine and I will survive, but without that fear, I I might not.

I am, forever, the….

Proactive Previvor

Recovery Help: Friends Are the Best

Friends Who Help
Company for the dog and me!

When I schedule my surgeries, the first thing I did was call my best friend, Chrissy.  I have known her for over ten years and been the best of friends for a solid nine.  Chrissy is my rock.  She is funny, wise, empathetic, and understanding.  She knows just what to say to make me feel better without minimizing how I feel.  These qualities, combined with her passionate beliefs, make her the best of company in any situation.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

You will need to ask for help.  Do yourself a favor and line up help ahead of your surgeries.  Asking for help does not mean that you are incapable but that you are responsible.  If you have a family with small children, or even big children who still need to be driven to events, start lining up assistance right away.  Don’t worry about paying people back for their assistance either.  Good friends will be there for you and expect nothing in return but your gratitude.

recovery helpers making breakfast
cooking breakfast

Before I could even ask Chrissy to come to my rescue, she volunteered.  Good friends will do that, you know.  Don’t discard their offers, but accept them with thanks.  People want to feel useful.  Let them!

This goes for your family, too.  One morning Chrissy and Matt cooked breakfast for me.  The omelettes and bacon were some of the best I’d tasted!

acCepting Help Even If You Don’t Want Company…

…that’s okay, too!  But, let people help in other ways.  If you have a sweet tooth, like me, consider asking for a delivery of your favorite treat.  A fantastic friend of mine, Rebecca, delivered my favorite cupcake without being asked!  Score!!!

You could always ask for groceries to replenish your fridge or have a friend set up a care calendar for meals.  Check out CareCalendar.org. The website allows friends to sign up to bring you meals on specific days at specific times.

Cupcakes for Healing Help
Cupcakes- My Fav!

You could even have a friend take care of your pets, which is especially important if you don’t have a family support network.  You will not be able to do what you normally do for quite some time.  This includes getting tugged around by fido or lifting heavy containers of kitty litter.  Don’t underestimate the importance of adhering to post-op instructions; you will only heal more slowly.

Remember, you don’t have to be Wonder Woman.  You are super just for healing.  Your job is to get better, not do everything.  Call up those friends and put them to work!